The whole trip was planned by the students, who designed the itinerary and took control of the logistics from day one. The students were accompanied by Mrs Broderick, Mr Grattage and John Parry who was the expedition leader from Wilderness Expertise.
The expedition was split into three phases: project, trek and R&R, with about a week devoted to each phase. The first phase saw the students staying in a traditional longhouse of the Rungus people, and helping with various jobs. The team worked with great enthusiasm, clearing and repairing a dam that supplies the water to the local community, clearing paths and mending fences, and helping to clear the beach of masses of plastic that was endangering sea life and causing pollution on the beach. It was the first time that these villagers had seen Europeans!
“It was incredible to experience the Malaysian culture first-hand, as it was like nothing we’d ever seen before. The Rungus people all seemed so content with what they had, and were so warm and welcoming with us, even showing us their traditional dancing and teaching us to cook their traditional dishes,” said Borneo expedition member Jonny Wilson.
The group then travelled to the foothills of Mt. Kinabalu, ready to start the trek section of the expedition the following day. “Before we knew it we were surrounded by the jungle proper – true primary jungle. It was an environment like none of us had ever experienced or anticipated. Without our guides we would have been lost within minutes. Leeches covered us all before we knew it. We made camp that night, weary but in awe,” said Frankie Antrobus. The group remained in the jungle for four days during which time they were further tested by tropical rain storms and muddy conditions.
The final part of the trip allowed the group to recharge their batteries and really appreciate the beauty of their surroundings, spending three nights on a small island named Mamutik – only 300m in diameter, and then the final two nights in secluded beach huts in a place called Mañana, accessible only by boat.
“It was a worthwhile and rewarding experience for all of us, and we’d do it again in a heartbeat!” concluded Josh Pollard.